As the last of ten kids, I was nicknamed "The Caboose." Being part of a large and loving family defined me as a person. I always had someone to listen to me tell stories, which provided me with lots of encouragement, something that can overcome a lack of raw talent.
In 1993 I basically begged my way into the MFA program at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana, a long way from Allentown, Pennsylvania. There I learned a great deal studying with Robert Olen Butler and the poet John Wood. My thesis served as an early draft for what became my first novel, St. Michael's Scales. I was fortunate enough to have the folks at Arthur A. Levine see potential in the pages, and in 2002 it was published as my first book. A couple years later, Buddy Cooper Finds a Way was released by Simon and Schuster. My work on The Miracle Stealer was put on hold when my first son arrived. Truth be told, for a number of years I lost sight of the book's center. But thanks to good reads from my editor Cheryl Klein, I became reacquainted with its core.
During my time in graduate school, I began teaching and found that I loved it dearly. After leaving Lake Charles, I was an instructor at Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, North Carolina. This is an especially important place for me because it's where I met my wife, Beth, who changed the course of my life. Just as this new life was taking shape though (in a plot twist that any decent workshop would rightly ridicule), I ended up being drawn back to Louisiana, replacing my old professor in the MFA program. Eventually I became director of the program that very nearly--and with good cause--rejected my initial application. My time at McNeese was amazing. I met a host of talented authors like Ron Carlson, Tim Gautreaux, ZZ Packer, Michael Knight, and Antonya Nelson. Running the graduate fiction workshop was singularly gratifying. Every day, I had a chance to work with exceptional emerging writers, and seeing them grapple with their own work, being a midwife of sorts to short stories and novels, was a delightful thrill .
In the summer of 2010, I relocated along with Beth and our two boys, Owen and James, back to Pennsylvania. I was excited to be joining the faculty at Shippensburg University, where I have continued to teach creative writing and work with talented people like Kim van Alkemade and the poet Nicole Santalucia.
February of 2017 will see the publication of In the Wake of Our Vows, a collection of fifteen short stories I've written over the years in between novels. My seventh book, Into the Hurricane, is scheduled for release from Arthur A. Levine in summer of 2017. Meanwhile, I'm working on the next manuscript, another YA novel titled Brawlers.